Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Could You Leave Your Garden?

I never tire of this view

"Could You Leave Your Garden?" my good friend, Tina asked me. We'd been walking in the neighborhood and noticing the new construction, when I shared with her that my next house and garden would be entirely different!

Mondardas in the sunny Susans Bed

Gardening differently has been on my mind and in process for some time...

The garden has already changed with the improvements to the way back and soon the grass paths in the front yard are going to be covered in pine straw. But, the changes that I wondered about out loud to my friend, are seeds that I've been planting for some time.

Frances and I have been chatting about this for months. I'm not getting younger and the energy with which I gardened in the past just isn't the same. The thought of digging into the soil and hitting limestone is no longer thrilling! The possibility that a big perennial garden might be too much to handle in the distant future has to be considered...Truthfully, it's kind of exciting to think about a totally different style of gardening or just a smaller native garden.

I am a great believer in planting seeds of change, well before the change needs to happen! I've already begun to work the metaphorical soil...turning over ideas and plans in my head, amending as I go and then letting it lay fallow, until it's ready to be sown.

What am I doing in the meantime?

I notice and appreciate the skill and artistry that gardeners bring to smaller gardens.
Mr. McGregor's Daughter's lovely woodland garden

Gathering ideas for that time when I move to a different home and smaller garden....I am also making the garden easier for me to take care of and enjoy.

Evergreen rosemary in the patio garden will survive in this protected spot

I am planting more evergreens and structural plants to look good all year. I am hiring helpers to do more of the work...Like leaf removal! This yard has more then its fair share of leaves! Getting help may be the single smartest thing any of us can do to take care of our bodies! So we can enjoy all the rest of our gardening years!

The new Waiting Bench is waiting for The Susan's to bloom

I've added several benches that are the same color as the house and carport columns. They connect the gardens to the house. If you know me, you might wonder why I didn't go for the same flash of color the red bench gives the patio! I thought about it and knew that the deeper, richer colored benches made good design sense!

A landscape crew has been hired to replace the high maintenance, sort of grass paths with pinestraw. They'll also edge the beds. The pinestraw and edging will provide a cleaner, crisper look to the woodland gardens and the sunny Susans' Bed.

This spot of green near the Garden of Benign Neglect will be our only maintained lawn.

Calm paths, with good lines will act as a balm to the exuberance of clay and limestone's wildflower beds. Rather like wearing a simple sling back sandal with a wildly printed dress! It's just the right touch.

The old Waiting Bench moves to a new home

Many years ago, I read an essay about how we could make our gardens easier for us as we age... Those ideas, like seeds, have been dormant; waiting for the gardener to work the soil and they have now sprouted and are growing madly!

Am I ready to let go of my garden today?

No, not yet! Right now, I have trouble leaving it for a weekend...but, I am planning how to in the future!

...and you? Could you leave your garden?



  1. Gail ... this is a very thoughtful post. I have considered the "what if we move for some reason ?" question too along with getting older and the aches and pains part !
    Absolutely YES to making things easier for me .. what plants I would not turn to again .. what plants I would increase .. labor saving techiques ..
    I'm hoping this Autumn to have our deck crew come and "FIX" a lot of hardscaping with pea gravel pathways plus, getting rid of lawn more and more .. husband can have his patch in the front (for a little longer ?) haha
    I think there will be a surge of older gardeners that the market will have to consider making gardening easier for us some how ?
    Beautiful pictures girl !!

  2. Gail, you must have wrote this post for One Woman. I am beginning a new garden. It will be beautiful but less work. Some day you will do the same.
    Enough said about my new beginning.
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Thank you for your meaningful comments on my journey.

  3. Oh yes Gail, I could leave my garden. Like you I am not ready to do so yet but I have thought about this. I have friends that are 81 and 79. I see how their gardens have evolved as they have grown older. They are great role models. The future, I can feel it in my bones as well as see it in my heart as the garden is part of me.

  4. A thought provoking post...I have already thought about switching my beds to raised ones in my vegetable garden!

  5. As you know Gail we are moving--so I will have all new gardens. Part of my planning is to have low maintenance gardens. (wonder how long that will last?) Less maintenance is something to consider as we get older. I do like color and seasonal interest and fragrance...so I may end up with some areas that need more tending to. stay tuned...

    Love your new bench, looks very inviting. Your new grass looks great. You need some grassy areas for your eye to have a place to rest.

  6. I could leave my garden and start over with a new garden. But I agree that as we get older, we change how we garden and look for ways to make it easier, or hire people to do the heavy lifting for us.

  7. Good Morning, Gail, what a thought provoking post! I could and would leave my renter's garden anytime. For one, it's just getting started, I could recreate most everything pretty quickly. Two, I would trade down, if I could only have something that was my very one. I would use an outhouse if that's all there was on my property, just so I know it's mine. If I did have have something I owned, like you have Clay and Limestone, I would find it very hard to give it up, just becuase of all the work and personality that was put into it.

    While in Europe I was totally enamored with their tiny immaculate gardens! Particularly the home I lived in in Germany. Behind their front fence was a strip of perfect grass, about one mower width wide, when a foundation planting of cannas. Kiwis and grapes growing on a garage wall trellis and the backyard was a-maz-ing, Don't get me started! I still am enamored by blogs from The UK, Europe and urban gardeners, why does it look like less of a challenge to totally landscape a smaller space?

  8. Gail, this was such a thought provoking post. I tweeted it because more of us need to thing about these things. I could leave mine as long as I could take some of it with me to a new, smaller house when I'm older. Also, I believe there is a garden of delight in the after life, and I'll be willing to leave everything for it and the One who resides there. :) ~~Dee

  9. Gail simply the answer is YES.
    I have left several of my gardens..each with it's own style that: depends on age of gardener..how much free time gardener has ..how the gardener has matured in what is considered a private oasis that feeds gardeners soul.
    What I am saying, as we walk through life there are changes to how we look at our life and transform our garden into the private oasis that our dreams are made of..and most important what we can physically handle.
    (I'm finding it easy to bend down but very hard to get up when tending my garden.)
    Should I leave this garden of mine..the next will surely have raised beds..lots of wild flowers for Mother Nature to care for and a glass house from which I can admire
    the splendor!
    Your garden is always a place of calmness for me! Thank you for your
    wonderful posts. Have a great day admiring your beauties..hugs aNNa

  10. OMG Gail, this is a fantastic post! Like so many commentors (Lzyjo comes to mind), I am awed and jealous of small-scale gardens where every square inch can be groomed and fabulous. But I would never, ever abandon my own gardens at Hawk's Haven unless I won the lottery and could actually move up to even more extensive grounds. And you'd better believe I'd use some of those lottery winnings to hire some help to maintain the new gardens and grounds!

  11. Yes, I left my wonderful garden in Portland, Oregon on a small 50' x 100' lot. Though I had wonderful neighbors, it was wonderfully private.

    Never thought I would leave the Northwest, but suddenly the time was right. I amazingly found a wonderful house on 3 acres only 4 miles from my sister, mother and brother-in-law who had moved to NE Alabama the year before.

    It's 2 years in August and I love it here, though summers are very difficult and for me are the indoor season. I went from only a small patch of grass in my backyard to primarily grass on a downward slope and woods overrun with honeysuckle and privet on the back third. It's very challenging and sometimes I wonder how long I'll be able to stay here (62 this summer). Having so much grass actually means less maintenance time and in this setting looks wonderful.

    I'm slowly enlarging some beds but trying to remember that I need to think differently!

    I so enjoy looking at your beautiful garden and reading your thoughtful posts.

    Thank you.

    Barbara H.

  12. Dear Gail, you have written a wonderful presentation on a subject near and dear to my heart, planning for the future! And thanks for the link love, my friend. It is so enjoyable to discuss with you our thoughts of what the next stage of gardening might be. I have already left many gardens, including one that was pure joy, but planning a new space with easier maintenance in mind is the latest challenge. Let the evergreens and hardscape begin, in our imaginations anyway. :-)

  13. I've often wondered why my gardening dreams have waited so long to come to the front. The past was always filled with other things. Now that I can no longer do many things my desires are for that perfect garden have intensified. Maybe it's a way to cope with the situation of life.
    As we age we just find a different way to fulfill the yearning in our hearts to commune with nature.

  14. You have really made me stop and think of what I would like in the future. This little deck garden takes up a lot of my time, more than you think. What would a larger more elaborate garden do to my free time? With forward thinking, and preplanning I think that I can have the garden of my dreams, and less work. Thanks for bring up this subject.


  15. Very interesting post Gail. Right now I would hate the thought of leaving my garden, it's changed so much with the house move. Before the house was moved, leaving the garden wouldn't have been a problem at all.

    I just turned 43, and I do think about the future. What will I be able to do 10 years from now, 20 years from now? As it is, I try to make the garden less and less maintenance every year.

    I can't wait to hear about your future plans as they develop. Your current garden is beautiful.

    PS. Bali Watercolor is a spider. I never much liked spider daylilies until a gardening friend started collecting them.

  16. Good morning Gail. You are the best at thought provoking posts. This one is no exception. I've created and left many gardens too so I could definitely do it again. My current garden is a lot of work to maintain and at certain times of the year (spring & fall) I have moments where I feel completely overwhelmed by the chores it presents. I could be quite content to container garden in my old age! Most of the time, I am happy with the way it is and am not ready to leave tho. I agree it's good to think about and plant seeds way before the time comes to actually change. Hiring help is a good solution. I haven't done that yet but that may be around the corner. I've already come to that decision regarding snow removal so it makes sense the garden should be the next place to ask for assistance. Hope you're having a great weekend?

  17. That was a very interesting post.
    Yes I could leave my garden but I would take many of my favourite plants with me. For me they are the heart of the garden and it would make the transition easier.
    I am all in favour of making a garden less labour intensive - and it is important to do it while you are still fit enough!

  18. Such a great post Gail dear! Well of course as you know I've left several gardens by now, and with any luck will have the opportunity to leave a couple more before the end! And even when we were in Missouri our gardens changed and became smaller. We mowed less, planted fewer vegetables, let some of the wooded paths return to nature. Our first summer here in Austin I was in shock from the heat and hardly ventured outside. But I enjoyed moving all my house plants outside and gardening on our deck. Hong Kong gardening meant plants on a balcony overlooking the city, but once again I really enjoyed being able to keep plants outside year round.

    This time in Austin our future is uncertain. I sometimes fantasize about where we might go next. If we stay here we might expand this house and put in a pool. East coast? I'd have to get used to winter again! West coast? I'd have to learn what grows in California, and a little garden with drought-resistant plants seems in my future. But who knows!

    I think aging is a continual lesson in leaving and loss - learning to handle it gracefully, peacefully.

    xxoo Lynn

  19. Very interesting post Gail. Something we all should consider and believe me, I've been considering this topic lately. You're smart to do what you're doing now.

    Yes, I've left a garden behind. It was hard but it was really the style of gardening and the kind of plants that I left behind that was the hardest (very xeriscapic). But it's okay now. I'm indulging in cottage-y style gardening now and liking the new possibilities. There's always something to learn in the New, so we should all take advantage of that.

    Thanks for the great post. And btw, I love your new Waiting Bench!

  20. I think when we moved to this house we moved into it with the thought that this would just be temporary. As our family grows we'll need more space and hopefully can afford more acreage to play with. I think I could move gardens fairly easily since every new garden would be an opportunity to do something new!

  21. Dear Gail....interesting post and something that I have often thought about. I moved to this garden seven years ago from a teeny beeny (although extremely beautiful) town garden, to an acre in the English countryside. I am 59 next year and as yet feel able to cope with it. I don't like others helping.....I even love clearing the leaves...and like you we have lots from the surrounding oaks......

    I suppose Gail we are all different and that is what I find interesting .....but I could never leave this garden it is part of me....I hope when I do leave it will be in my wooden overcoat and not before........and then someone else will hopefully enjoy it......

    Have a lovely week and enjoy your beautiful garden....even with the limestone.....

  22. You always know the right words to make the garden blogosphere reverberate, Gail - great post!

    We've left four gardens behind already and could do it again - original plan was to be in Austin 3 years but we're already at year #10. Just in case, one baby step I've taken toward a garden we can handle with age is tucking small evergreens in the beds, surrounded by plants that are gradually being sacrificed as the evergreens fill in. Maybe the garden will end up less of a jumble and more like Mrs Whaley's Charleston Garden ;-]

    If you can afford it, hardscape & help are the way to go, Gail! The muted benches and edging look perfect.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  23. Yes, I can and recently did leave my garden, as you know, and am starting over at the new house. With much thought as to how much time I want to spend on maintenance, I'm planning to use many more evergreen and structural plants here than flowering perennials.

    Great post, Gail.

  24. My friends, Thank you all for your fantastic comments...this is a topic that is very real for me and I think to other gardeners..of a certain age! I love hearing your thoughts and stories; they help me know you a little better and they often open my eyes to other ideas! ....Isn't that the joy of blogging; sharing our stories, getting to know each other...and indirectly ourselves better!

    I love C&L...and cannot imagine leaving it tomorrow! But the garden that is today, won't necessarily be the garden that is tomorrow or next year. Some tasks are easy to give up...fighting the invasives wears me out! But others are hard to let go of...

    Thank you for all you've given me to think a;;bout, for taking the time to share and for being here!


  25. I still feel like I just got here and occasionally I find myself pipedreaming about another more perfect garden elsewhere. But meanwhile I hate to leave this one and think of every excuse not to! But like you, I'm trying to work things that make the gardening easier into my master plan. (just obliterated the need to weedwhack a few edges - it's a lot of work right now, but less in the long run...!)

  26. I've thought about this too, my husband always says he wants to downsize when we retire. Gardening on a smaller scale at that point in my life might be just the ticket. Right now I'm not ready to leave my garden behind. :)

  27. The answer for me is--never!! But it's also a very complicated answer...Right now, no, I couldn't leave this garden, but I also realize that things in life change, and I may have to change with it. My gardens really aren't that big, but every time I plan a new flowerbed, my husband asks, "Can you take care of it?" I used to shake my head at what I perceived as his negativity, but now I think the same thing--will I be able to maintain it? I am trying more and more to plant low maintenance perennials and use lots of mulch to avoid having to do as much work each year. I do recognize my limitations and try to take them into account.

    On the other hand, while on a garden walk yesterday I met an 87-year-old Master Gardener helping out with the walk. And then there's my 83-year-old Dad who maintains an absolutely weed-free vegetable garden. I'm not giving up until I have to!

  28. The idea of starting afresh with new plants in a new situation is quite exciting, though I daresay when the time comes, there will be things I'll take with me.
    It's the memories I find hard to leave behind. I think for me gardening is a metaphor for life - as time goes on I put more and more into it, and get more and more out of it.
    I hope I've learnt a few lessons along the way, and one of the things I find comforting to remember is that each garden has been better than the last in some way - lighter, or sunnier, or bigger, or more interesting in every way.

  29. Gail,

    Good post!

    Since I designed the house with the cottage garden and waterfall patio on the blueprints, it's hard to imagine leaving. But, we just got here in 2005.

    I never planned to build the outer gardens -- deer resistant front, butterfly, fragrance, dry stream, rain garden. I thought I would just be gardening within the cottage fence and sitting among evergreens and containers on the patio.

    The outer gardens were created to solve problems -- water runoff and erosion. I sometimes have fleeting thoughts (like today) of mowing down the outer gardens! LOL

    Our sons wanted to build the fragrance garden as a family project. I actually spend very little time in that lovely space since the table is for 6.

    I'd definitely have trouble leaving the house and cottage garden. We have coffee outside most days of the year -- waterfall patio, front porch, a garden bench or the back screened porch.

    What would make me leave? A perfect stone cottage with a fenced garden in France! Nothing less! If I'm going dream, I'm going to dream -- SMALL, but exotic! LOL

    Your garden is wonderful!

  30. Gail:

    Your post has stirred many emotions for me. At 44, I still hope to have many years of gardening ahead of me, but who knows for sure?

    I created a somewhat eclectic garden filled with rare and unusual plants, and for that reason alone I could never leave the 'children' behind. Would I do it differently if given the opportunity. No, can't say I would change the selection, but perhaps I would utilize innovations such as raised beds...... it's painful trying to get a picture of Princess reginae even now! The old knee joints ain't what they used to be!

    I have always said that a garden is a window into the soul of it's caretaker, and am sure that each and every garden that is created is cherished and held close to it's caretaker's heart. I just don't think I could leave my kids....... not yet anyhow.

    Not having a family, all of my attention is lavished on my 'children' (plants) ...... guess they're kind of spoiled! Fantastic, thought-provolking post as always....... it is surely to reverberate in the back of my mind for some time to come!

  31. best to grow wise as we age. When I happen to see an elderly person out in their garden... it gives me hope. nothing is better than that gift.

  32. Great post! I could easily leave mine since I've never really cared for the proximity to the neighborhood play area.

    I used to long for land, but as I get older, I realize that it is no longer feasible. Now that I'm nearing the empty nest years, I've been thinking more about downsizing.

  33. Hmm, I think my post will take more room than a comment. :)

  34. I too have been rethinking the high maintenance of my gardens. I am leaving this Thursday for a couple of days and have been fretting over what will become of my gardens without my constant attention. (Perhaps it will welcome some alone time)

  35. My ex and I moved a lot so I've already left three gardens, two of which I created from scratch. I always took plants with me and always looked forward to the new garden. You really hit on a thread I've been thinking a lot about myself: my current garden (also created from scratch and the one I've had the longest) is large. My house is small by my garden is huge. Big even. I notice I'm running out of energy to feel enthused about keeping it up. And I also notice how smaller gardens have a bigger impact because one needs fewer plantings. I have a TON of plants, but they are spaced out in a large area... two friends have smaller gardens and they both look so bright and colorful and vibrant because they have a smaller space to fill (I suppose if one had more money one could fill my space as thickly, but that's not my situation). So yes, I could leave my garden, though leaving this one would be more heartbreaking than leaving the others, but one can't hold too tightly to anything. My trouble is, I don't want to live too close to neighbors, so I don't want a tiny yard, just a smaller garden, but I also hate grass, so... ooh! Woods! :) Finally, "I am a great believer in planting seeds of change, well before the change needs to happen!" _ I am, too. You don't happen to have German heritage?! ;-)

  36. Monica, I do have German heritage...on both sides of the family and Irish, too! So imagine when those worlds collide!


  37. It is my intent that this is my last garden. Structure in the form of shrubs both evergreen and deciduous, tough no nonsense perennials and defining paths and stone work as it evolves is the plan to give the garden the look of garden no matter what its actual condition of maintenance.

    One thing I have learned from the 80 year old resident gardeners who tend close to 3 acres of wildness is to be happy with what you can actually get done and don't sweat the rest. Their idea is to keep active and stay busy, not be on the cover of Garden Design.

  38. Very interesting topic Gail. Actually I could leave mine without much trouble. I probably won't but I don't have a sentimental attachment to it. Every garden we make gets better, easier, more personal. We learn so much each day in the garden...there will be many fewer mistakes with each new project.

  39. Christopher, The resident gardeners are indeed wise!

  40. It would be difficult but that time will come one way or another. Live in the moment.

  41. Hi,
    I have posted about this from time to time. Your thoughts sound a lot like mine a while back. My husband and I are elderly and have made lots of changes...necessary ones. It is a challenge to get it right, but with some careful thought you can have a lovely yard. The benches are so welcome. It seems we have some seating all around the house.

  42. Gail,
    This is something Jamie and I have been discussing recently. When Jamie gradates from school our income will almost quadruple and we will be able to afford a much newer home and more land. We both decided that we would stay where we are because of the garden unless the neighborhood really starts to decline. We have so many fond thoughts of the time we’ve spent together in our garden. I’m much older than him and it would be really hard for me to start a new garden in another seven to ten years. Our garden is not perfect by any means, but we have put so much time and thought into it neither of us can think of leaving it at this point.--Randy

    If we did, a LOT of things would be coming out of the ground.

  43. An interesting post, Gail.

    As SomeBeans has moved jobs a few times, we have moved homes at the same time, so I have left gardens in a variety of places. Each time I leave memories, which will mean nothing to the new people - plants which have been given by friends and relatives, some no longer with us.

    But each new garden is a chance to start again, do something a bit different, rise to new challenges. Perhaps if I had been in each garden longer, it would be more of a wrench. So, yes, I could leave my garden. And just hope that a little bit of the garden and a few of my memories survive in each place.

  44. In a heartbeat! This is the first home I've lived in as an adult that I didn't choose myself or help choose. It was part of the package when I married the Lawn Man.

    Given the choice I'd opt for a much smaller house (empty nesters do not need five bedrooms!) with more property, and not in a subdivision.

    I've always had pretty easy-to-maintain gardens, and this one is no exception. It's the rest of the place that's more high-maintenance and much more work than I want, especially as I think about both of us growing older.

    Wonderful post Gail!

  45. We left a small but wonderful garden to create a much bigger one that encompasses the entire property. We planned that this will be our last one and we will stay here til the hopefully not too bitter end. We are trying to switch from bark to gravel paths and adding more and more evergreens where once I would have wanted perennial beds. But trees and shrubs need pruning, too; so there is no such thing as a low maintenance garden no matter what you do. I think it may be a hard sell to get someone to buy such an intensely gardened property as ours. A true gardener might want to start from scratch and everyone else will be scared to death. Besides I can't imagine starting the day anywhere but with the view of my garden out the window — winter or summer.

  46. I could leave the house but would have a hard time leaving the land...a very hard time! Kim

  47. Thanks for the link love! You are very smart to start thinking about making your garden work better for you so you don't have to do as much work and can enjoy it more. I've left one garden to make a very different one here, but I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to leave this garden, after all the work and love I've put into it. Especially if I ever get all the concrete dug out of it!

  48. Gail, wonderfully thought provoking post. I have thought off and on about this -I turn to big 60 this year and wonder how long I can handle what I am trying to do with the gardens. We had jsut done some major new bed making when I became ill with fibromyalgia and it became too difficult ofr me to do much of anything in the gardens. So they were left very bare with lots of mulch and some ground cover planted. Then 2 years ago, I started the new meds and had the energy to garden once again! I'd been so busy planting and designing(:0) that it suddenly hit me...could I keep up with all that would need to be done.

    The long and short of it is, I will do what I can as long as I feel like it. For now, I am enjoying making up for those lost years. What ever happens-I will try to make the most of that too.

    I hope you enjoy your gardens as long as you want to. :)

  49. Gail -- Even though I am comment #49, I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful essay this is and how much I appreciate your making me think about change and evolution in the garden. I have left several gardens, and I miss them sometimes, but I have wonderful memories and so much appreciate all I have now. (even though I do get garden envy!) But we all have to learn and grow and that's really the lesson here, isn't it. So thanks for sharing and for giving me something to think about on these relentlessly hot summer days.

  50. My dear Gail,
    As you know, I adore your Clay and Limestone wild and native plantings... and it is looking so good, I must say, in this month of June.

    Oh, the thoughts you have provoked. Many of the same thoughts I often have as I meander through a days' work in my own beloved garden. You and I both have gardened in the same location (well, you in yours and me in mine) for very many years. Almost every single plant (and many of the trees) was put in the ground by my own hands. I still have plans, I still have ideas and still have so much to do here. And yet, I wonder, "would I be able to garden in a smaller space." It would certainly mean more time for blogging. Ha.

    It is necessary "at a cerain age" to begin looking down the road. My garden takes up an enormous amount of my time... and I do it all year long.

    Like you, I am not ready yet. I guess what I am saying is ...I hope it is a very long time before I am.
    hugs** Meems

  51. My friends,

    I have loved reading each and every one of your comments...You have given me a gift: a sweet peak into your world and at the deeply held feelings you have about your garden, your life and your philosophy. I am honored that you have taken the time to respond. Thank you. Warmest hugs to each of you.


  52. Wonderful thought provoking post Gail! Your garden has changed to add formality to the mix. It looks very distinguished and still keeps your whimsy. I think you can marry both nicely till it becomes a more manageable mix of hard and soft scapes. We are constantly changing.

    I can leave a garden behind and have done so more than 30 times in my life. I get better every time. I no longer feel rushed in the process. I like change so it works for me. I doubt me and MrD will stay in our current home forever. He still has a job that could move us out of the area. so I never get too attached. I do continually think of how I would do things differently and yes it changes as I get older.

    You do get attached very quicly to a new garden with so much opportunity. It's a lot of fun to use your years of experience to make anew---but it can also be a lot of work.

  53. i find it much harder to leave a garden than a home. dh and i have been married 23 years and lived in four houses now. i would love to find my forever home and never want to move. i have been moving towards more natives but will always have a weakness for flowerbeds.

  54. Your benches and edging are lovely! I could leave the garden if I found one with similar stricture. But I have always been happy to hire help and will continue to do so. I simply haven't the time to spend working in the garden, at any age .. I've always preferred enjoying it, and doing whatever I had time to do.

  55. Very thought provoking post. It would be really hard to leave the garden with all the effort I put into it. But a fresh start is nice too sometimes. I'd struggle with it I'm sure if I had to move. -Jackie

  56. Gail, this post really resonated with me. The layout of our house is such that we could quite comfortably live there for another 20 years. Keeping up with the garden, though, has and will continue to grow ever more difficult. There are days when I'm overwhelmed by my creation and despair of ever getting it all done. When that happens, I remind myself that I don't HAVE to get it all done. The garden will still be a place of beauty and pleasure if I don't. That said, I am working to add more hardscaping and reduce/define planting areas. I'm constantly redefining my vision for the garden as my life and Mother Nature provide new challenges!

  57. A timely post for me, as well! Not that we're planning to move anytime soon, but I already know that I'd like things to be 'simpler' when I move...both house-wise, and in the garden. I really want a 1-level home with less rooms and I'd love to get rid of 3/4th of the stuff inside my house, as well! I would love a different yard, one with much fewer trees! I like trees--and I like woods--I just like sun-loving flowers and don't seem to have enough of them right now! I don't want a huge garden, or garden areas, just enough to enjoy without feeling burdoned, physically. Yes, I could leave this one, and I would like to...I just don't want to have to start over! Someday, we will, though. And I think I'll be ready!

  58. Gail, I don't know how I missed this wonderful post. This is something I think about often. Both Michael and I would like to downsize, our house is way too big for 2 people and we get tired of maintaining it. On the other hand, I don't know if I could leave the garden we have worked on for 17 years. I find myself thinking of ways to make maintenance easier (it is too much for me, I will be the first to admit) but on the other hand I'm always starting new projects. I hope to be able to retire in 7 or 8 years and I honestly don't know what we will do. We would both like to move to a cooler climate but I'm not sure how feasible that would be. We have lived here all our lives and although we hate the summer months and overall backward culture of this state, I think it would be hard. There is a lot to think about, that is for sure!

  59. With a small urban lot (25'x100') -- and some people have livingroom rugs larger than our back garden -- my fantasy has always been that if we were to move, it would be to a "real" garden. Larger, sunnier, without all these tree roots! Then, I tell myself, gardening would be easy.

    When I catch myself dreaming like this, I shake myself mentally and say: Helen, you have a hard enough time taking care of what you have.

    And this is with a front garden that, after 22 years, almost looks after itself. Is it the most beautiful garden in the world? Sadly, no. But it's designed to survive my busy schedule under the dry shade of Norway maples and people still stop to say nice things about it.

    Weeding, mulching and feeding the soil. Occasionally giving the woody stuff a haircut. Squishing and flicking bugs. Deadheading. It's still amazing how much time "low maintenance" of a low-maintenance Microgarden like mine requires. Besides, we usually find some new project to consume us.

    Any gardener who is also reading and writing about gardens is doing it out of love. If not love of the place itself, then love of the craft or the art, if you will, of gardening. We take that with us, wherever we are. Even if the garden we eventually end up with is just a windowsill full of houseplants.

  60. I could, and have, left my garden, but that doesn't mean I did it without regret. But life moves on, and my husband's job required him to move here, where I started all over again to make another garden. He asked if I wanted to move elsewhere in this same area, but I did choose not to leave. I've worked too hard! I'll stay put till the next job requirement makes me go! I think often of my old garden, and when we visit that area, I can see glimpses of it. Someday I'll be brave enough to stop and knock on their door, asking for a tour.

  61. The question is a moot one for me...I garden on a balcony right now. Could I leave it for something different? In a heartbeat! But that's hardly what your question poses. :) Your gardens are so beautiful and so calming (LOVE the Waiting Benches...I'm sure I will someday steal that!) that it's hard to imagine walking away from them, but our gardens are like our homes -- there sometimes comes a point where we need to find something more manageable. I'm sure whatever your future gardens hold, they will be just as wonderful as the ones you have now. :)

  62. I'm fairly young and my garden is even younger, but I worry about the maintenance I'm creating for myself with all my landscaping plans. I think I'm going to go for the perennials for a while, though, and enjoy them while I have the energy to deadhead and cut back and divide. Then the garden can evolve to lower-maintenance shrubs and groundcovers later.

  63. You are all the dearest people...I loved reading your comments and am deeply touched with your thoughtful responses....Thank you./

    Have a wonderful fourth of July or nice weekend for those not celebrating!

    See you next week~~


  64. I had to leave my garden for a new job. I moved from Northern California to the Northeast, and yes, it is a big adjustment. I am 800 feet from the sound, and the entire property will be re-graded in two months when we begin a major remodel. It is an empty canvas, and one that while I can see the potential, it is in a part of the world that I am just getting to understand and love. Revisiting the photos of my former garden, I am amazed at the how much love we put into it. But just as I have read here on the comments, I will be gardening differently, taking what I learned and expanding on it. Bigger groupings of plants, bolder color and leaf texture, and a strong design that will be of interest in the long winter. Like planning for a once in a lifetime vacation, the research is also part of the adventure.

  65. Hello Gail,

    It sounds to me like you are not leaving your garden but allowing it to grow and change with you. And that is as it should be. Gardens reflect a person's personality, interests and current situation. Before we had children our garden was somewhere to sit and read a book and low maintenance. Now it is my place of escape, a playground for the children and very productive. We never left our garden, we just delved into another aspect of gardening. Enjoy the thrill of discovering new elements in your own garden and when you do leave to a smaller house you will be taking all your gardening memories with you and embarking on a new gardening adventure. What is gardening if not an adventure?

  66. It would be pretty hard to leave my garden, with all the sweat equity my husband and I have put into it. But in a sense I have had to leave it this year, because of illness. Thankfully it has fared pretty well on it's own, because of all the prennials, but I need to have someone come and attack the weeds now before they go to seed.

  67. Gail, this is something I've been pondering for nearly as long as we've lived here. This is a high-maintenance yard - even without the gardens, due to the falling leaves in the Fall and Spring (and the Number of them!). I love it here, but I know that I won't be keeping up this pace for a terribly long time. I do love the idea of being in town in a few years as well. But for now, I'm with you. Keep planning for the next person in the ease of gardening, continue to improve and enjoy the improvements, and relish the time we have here until such time as a move happens. :-)


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson